Posthumous Hitchens: As readers remember the writer by combing his back-catalog, publishers prepare to offer previously unpublished works
1:00 pm Dec. 16, 2011
Christopher Hitchens, who died at the age of 62 last night of complications from esophageal cancer, leaves behind a massive body of work, much of which is being read today by readers and fellow writers for whom his death is the occasion for a reappreciation.
Meanwhile, his various editors are now considering his unpublished work, such as a memoir to be released by Atlantic Books early next year, and finding ways to get it before the public.
Vanity Fair, which delivered the news of its longtime columnist's death late last night, will publish what it believes will be Hitchens' final byline in the next issue of the magazine, which hits stands in New York and Los Angeles on Jan. 5, according to a spokeswoman. The piece is about Charles Dickens, a popular topic with Hitchens, and one about which he had written in the May 2010 issue of The Atlantic, where Hitchens was also a frequent contributor.
James Bennet, editor of The Atlantic, made reference to unpublished works by Hitchens in a statement issued this afternoon about Hitchens' death.
"No writer was ever more alive on the page than Christopher Hitchens," he said, "and, though I'm certain he'll always read that way, and though he isn't quite done –- he has left behind reviews yet to be published –- it is shocking to contemplate an end to his arguing, if not his arguments. For The Atlantic, it has been a privilege to publish his literary criticism."
A spokeswoman for The Atlantic confirmed that there will be two final literary essays by Hitchens in the March and April issues, "one about one of his favorite writers, and one about a British writer whose legacy he had long wanted to wrestle with," she said.
Hitchens' other regular gig was with Slate, where he had written a weekly column since 2002.
"He'd only missed one or two columns since he was sick," said Slate editor David Plotz, reached by phone. "They were times when he was just in really dire health and just couldn't do it. What was amazing was that even when he was ill, he produced at a level that would fell almost anybody else. He would still write weekly, even when he was exhausted or unable to eat or drink or do anything else he wanted to do. It was totally astonishing."
Plotz confirmed that Hitchens' Nov. 28 column on G.O.P. presidential candidate gaffes, which is currently the late author's most recent byline anywhere, was indeed his last, published or unpublished, for Slate.
"We emailed about 10 days ago," said Plotz. "He just said he was really tired. So he missed one final deadline."
Plotz said he and his staff would be drinking in Hitchens' honor tonight at Slate's holiday party at Plotz's D.C. abode.
As of this afternoon, there were no plans at Vanity Fair for similar sorrow-drowning, nor does editor Graydon Carter, who wrote an encomium for the magazine's website, plan to make any sort of address to staff today, the spokeswoman said.
But the mood over at 4 Times Square is understandably subdued.
"We're all just processing this right now," she said.